Most college-bound high school students load up on as many Advanced Placement classes as they can to get college credit. And yet, there’s been an ongoing debate about whether these courses are equivalent to university-level work.
Dartmouth College decided to stop giving students credit for AP courses starting with the class of 2018, saying they do not accurately reflect the difficulty and breadth of a university course. To test the theory, the college gave a concentrated version of their Introductory Psychology exam to students who received a five on the AP exam. Ninety percent failed.
Dartmouth’s move was controversial. But GW should follow suit to help build an atmosphere of competitive academics.
Instead of offering credit for AP courses, the University should use these classes exclusively to determine placement.
The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences no longer allows AP credits to exempt a student from general curriculum requirements. In CCAS, the Elliott School of International Affairs and the School of Media and Public Affairs, high scores on AP tests allow students to skip basic introductory courses exclusively within their major or minor – but they count that credit toward graduation. And that should change.
Let’s be honest: Many AP classes don’t effectively teach the coursework. For most, the goal is primarily to teach students strategies on how to get a high score on a standardized test. Increasingly, high school AP English classes are taught not to introduce students to literature and writing styles, but to teach how to write a formulaic essay in a fixed time limit like those on the exam.
But being able to pass a test doesn’t mean you’ll be able to pass a college course. AP classes do not demonstrate the wide scope of what professors can teach in a university setting. I’m fairly certain that someone who scored a 5 on the AP microeconomics exam would be hard-pressed to get an A on professor Anthony Yezer’s Introduction to Microeconomics final.
The college experience is devalued when classes are replaced by tests at the end of high school. In choosing to opt out of a course because of AP credit, students lose more than they gain. And by forcing students to take all their courses at GW, the University would send the message that there is no substitute for a GW education.
Of course, many students would be disappointed to find they won’t receive credit for work they did in high school. But moving away from this system can put GW on the path to offer more challenging degrees and producing more enlightened students.
I’m not saying that AP credit should be done away with entirely – and neither is Dartmouth, which plans on continuing to use credits as a placement method.
If someone demonstrates competence in a course area, then they should be given the option to take courses that will challenge them more. I have proven with my AP scores that English is my strength, so it does not make sense for me to take the basic English literature series requirement.
But to suggest that an AP course is comparable to a college level course is a stretch, and it’s time we stop treating them like they are equivalent.
Dan Grover is a freshman in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.